cover image The Water's Lovely

The Water's Lovely

Ruth Rendell, . . Crown, $25.95 (340pp) ISBN 978-0-307-38136-1

T hree-time Edgar Award–winner Rendell (13 Steps Down ) often creates fragile characters, trembling on the edge of losing a lover, child, job, solvency or sanity. Slashing through their world is a “wild card,” an obsessive or a sociopath too focused on personal gain to be concerned with damage to others. The vulnerable people at the heart of this taut and enticing stand-alone are the Sealand family, particularly Heather, who's assumed to have drowned her unsavory stepfather, Guy, in the bath while he was weak with illness. A veritable pack of wild cards—including Marion Melville, who cozies up to the lonely and aged in hopes of inheriting their estates after she's poisoned them, and Marion's Dumpster-diving brother, Fowler—keeps everyone off guard. Rendell enlivens the tale with subplots involving various romances—ardent and desperate—and a killer who lurks in London's parks, as well as with pithy comments about class, technology, generational conflict, food and aesthetics. The plot twists in this electrifying read reach all the way to the last page. (July)